RUGBY: Another big game against Oakham comes complete with a crucial success for Stags

Stuart Quinn (green, right) scored one of the Stags tries as they beat Oakham. Picture: J BIGGS PHOT

Stuart Quinn (green, right) scored one of the Stags tries as they beat Oakham. Picture: J BIGGS PHOTOGRAPHY - Credit: Archant

The last time Huntingdon won a big game against Oakham the reward was promotion to Midlands Division One East for the first time in their history.

And while that play-off triumph back in May, 2013 will always rank as one of the finest days in Stags’ history, the stakes were arguably just as high – for the locals at least - when the two clubs did battle again at The Racecourse last Saturday.

And while the weather was very different (as relentless rain fell in freezing conditions) the outcome was the same as Huntingdon collected a vital victory in their bid to avoid a second successive relegation.

Their 18-3 triumph provided cause for optimism at the end of a torrid 2018 in which the club suffered the drop and immediately fell to the bottom of their current and lower Midlands Division Two East (South) level.

Kiwi ace Stuart Quinn provided an early breakthrough with Stags’ first try and they doubled their lead when Sam Hirons produced a fine individual score later in the opening half.

Oakham replied with a penalty soon after half-time but that was cancelled out as Hirons’ boot added another three points to the Huntingdon tally.

He also played a key role in their third try which sealed a second win of the season and third of the calendar year. Hirons picked out Tom Morgan, who darted

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through a gap in the Oakham defence to touch down, with a fine reverse pass.

Huntingdon were unable to add a fourth try which would have secured a valuable bonus point as further reward for a committed and efficient performance which featured none of the individual errors which have proved so costly this season and last.

“I’m delighted with the performance as much as the result,” said head coach Damien Whales. “We controlled the game perfectly in terrible conditions.

“We’re very much looking forward to the Christmas break and then meeting the challenge of turning the season around in the new year.”

Despite this success, Stags remain four points adrift at the foot of the standings with fellow strugglers Vipers and Long Buckby also winning last Saturday. They are seven points from safety.

They resume their survival battle on January 5 when making the short trip to St Ives for a Huntingdonshire derby clash.

And Whales’ men will have revenge on their minds after slumping to a 57-5 defeat in the reverse fixture back in September.